Sunday, 18 January 2015

Apple Ginger Muffins

Apple Ginger Muffins

Winter lingers on, mornings are late and evenings are early, and only something hearty and comforting will lift my soul.  Warmly baked apples spiked with cinnamon and a whack of ginger, nestled into sweet muffins are the answer.  Whole wheat, bran and walnuts ensure they’re way more healthy than commercial muffins, and avocado oil makes them even better.

This recipe makes two dozen cheerful muffins, takes about thirty minutes to eating time, and cooks at 425 F.
Slice thinly then chop.

2 large ambrosia apples
1 cup walnuts
4 to 6 pieces candied ginger

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups bran
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground dried ginger 

1 egg
2 cups yogurt
2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 425 F and line muffin tins with paper cups.  (I’ve recently found that parchment paper cups work better than plain.  Muffins easily slide away from the parchment so you’re not obliged to scrape your teeth against paper, frantic to consume every last crumb.)

Quarter and core the apples, then thinly slice, then chop into pieces.  Chop walnuts.  Set apples and walnuts aside.  You can use commercial candied ginger, or make your own.  Home made candied ginger is the bomb!  Place candied ginger into blender and reduce to small bits, mostly powder.  You need about three tablespoons worth, once powdered.  Set aside.

My bowl was a little too small eventually.
In a large bowl, combine flour, bran, salt, soda, cinnamon, powdered ginger and powdered candied ginger.  Mix well with a large slotted spoon.  Add apples and walnuts and combine again. 

In a smaller bowl, beat egg.  Add yogurt.  Pour oil into a half cup measure, then add to egg and yogurt.  Pour molasses into the measure and it will smoothly pour into the egg mix.  Combine well.
Adapted from 1971 "New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook"

Stir the wet mix into the dry as briefly as possible.  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, till they smell great and are no longer shiny or wet looking. 

Cool a few minutes, then place on racks to cool.  You can eat these while they’re still warm.  If you’ve used parchment cups, you can enjoy them more easily, but if you used plain paper, they will glue themselves to the paper till they’ve completely cooled.  I am regretting my cheapskate ways this morning…

These muffins are healthy and delicious.  If you adore ginger like I do, you could double the ginger amounts, and be even happier! 

I've never had too much ginger, have you?

Parchment would have made eating these easier!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Crack

Christmas Crack

Some say the name is because this luscious confection’s made with crackers.  Others say it’s because it’s addictive.  Both groups speak the truth.  Crunchy, toffee sweet, salty, oh, it’s irresistible.

This ridiculously easy recipe is tweaked just a little from the many 'originals', but relies on real butter and jaggery, that raw Indian cane sugar also known as Punjabi shakkar.  Oh deliciousness.

Jaggery is also Shakkar, available in Indian groceries.
1 sleeve Stoned Wheat Thins
2 cups jaggery, or Punjabi shakkar
1 ½ cups butter
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
a sprinkling of Himalayan salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Arrange crackers on two parchment lined cookie sheets.  My crackers became somewhat bejumbled. No problem: the goo flowed over, around and underneath the crackers, beautifully glazing them all over.  Other recipes call for plain saltines, or salted soda crackers, but I never liked those, not even when I was a child.  Way too bland and boring!

Hot and dangerous!
Put jaggery and butter into a large saucepan.  Turn on to medium to melt butter and dissolve jaggery, about five minutes.  Turn heat up to medium high, and hover, stirring with a wooden spoon for about three minutes.  Remove from heat and gently pour over crackers.  Push molten sugar around with the back of a wooden spoon if it doesn’t nicely oblige you, so it covers every molecule of exposed cracker.  Molten sugar is dangerously hot, so be extremely careful!

Pop covered crackers into the oven for about ten minutes.  Stay with them toward the end to watch they don’t get too dark.  Remove from oven onto safe places to cool.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips. 

In a couple of minutes it’s time to use a metal knife to carefully smooth out the melted chocolate.  Distribute so every molecule of sugar is covered in a skiff of chocolate.  Sprinkle with a little freshly ground Himalayan salt if you’re really bad.
Spread with a knife within a few moments.

Walk away and leave these alone to cool.  These are still molten hot and dangerous, so no fooling around, you greedy thing!  Oh, would you regret that!

Several hours later, you may need to refrigerate these to harden the chocolate, or if the room is cool enough, you may be in luck.  I needed to refrigerate.  When the chocolate is hardened, crack apart with your fingers. 

This stuff is getting tucked into cookie tins, to be distributed as gifts and treats for our pre-Christmas dinner tonight.  Oh, happy day, I’m turning the entire family into cravin’ addicts.  What fun!

These crack easily with your hands.  You will become addicted, guaranteed!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Masoor Dal with Kale, Mint and Cilantro

Masoor Dal with Kale, Mint and Cilantro

I will confess to substituting meals lately with Christmas gingerbread and nuts-and-bolts.  I am beginning to crave a vitamin, or two.  While lentils and kale don’t sound like a fair comparison to gingerbread pastries, they too can be made delicious with enough ginger, garlic, chilies and perhaps a little butter.  After all, we can’t live on just Christmas treats.

The spice blend for this dal has its own complexity, but the addition of tons of fresh mint and cilantro kick this dal up many notches.  This cooks within the hour, and can easily serve four to six, especially with basmati rice or chappatties.

2 cups masoor dal
water to wash, then fresh water to cover

5 Kashmiri dried chilies
Gently roast till they barely smoke.
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon black ajwain (black celery seed)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
3 cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 black cardamom pods, well bashed, husks removed
1 green cardamom pod, bashed, husk removed
1 small flake mace
3 pieces cassia 

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Wash and remove mint stems!

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 extra teaspoon cumin seed
1 large red onion, sliced into thin but short pieces
2 inches ginger, matchsticked
1 teaspoon extra oil, ghee or butter
1 can tomatoes (28 ounce size)
7 garlic cloves
2 fresh chilies, or more to taste
4 kale leaves, ribbed and chopped
3 cups fresh mint
3 cups fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Wash the dal till the water comes clear.  Cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil.  Lower to simmer and cook till soft.  Masoor Dal, the orange lentils, cook up in about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

Chop cilantro leaves with tender stems.
While the dal is beginning to cook, roast the first set of whole spices in a large pot, (but reserve the extra cumin seeds.)  When they start to smoke and fill your nose with fragrance, pluck out the cassia pieces, and brush the rest of the roasted spices into a grinder, adding the turmeric.  Set aside to cool.

Add oil to the big pot, and return cassia to the pot.  Set on medium high, and when the cassia starts to sizzle a bit, add the remaining cumin seed.  Let that sizzle for a few moments, then add the onion and ginger.  Turn heat down to medium, stirring, and let cook till onion is translucent and golden. 

The spices need the extra bit of oil, ghee or butter.
Grind the warm spices to a powder.  Add them to the onions, with a bit more oil, ghee or butter, if you prefer.  Stir and cook the spices for two or three minutes.  In the meantime, place canned tomatoes, garlic cloves and fresh chilies into a blender and buzz till smooth.  With a closefitting lid nearby, pour the tomatoes into the onion mix and quickly cover. 

Let cook till it sounds like the furious boiling has settled a bit.  Carefully lift cover and add the cooked dal.  Add the kale, stir, and cook another twenty minutes.  This is a good time to wash the mint and pluck the leaves from the stems.  The stems are too wiry to cook, so remove them carefully. The cilantro needs a good wash.  Trim just the nubby ends of the cilantro stems.  Chop the cilantro, leaves and tender stems.  

Once the kale is almost tender enough to eat, add the mint leaves.  Cook about five to ten minutes then add the chopped cilantro.  Taste for salt and add now.  Cook for just a few minutes, to keep cilantro as green as possible.

Serve with basmati rice or chappatties, and contratulate yourself for rescuing yourself from malnutrition.  After eating silly junk for several days in a row, this will taste magnificent.  But don’t get too self-righteous, because next up will be my Christmas Crack recipe, made with unusual ingredients, of course. 

This will tide you over till you get into the Christmas Crack...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Ginger Bread Men

Ginger Bread Men

These ginger bread men don’t mess around.  A heavy dose of ginger fills them with fiery bravado that will have you begging for mercy.  Not for these boys the lacy patterns and funny clothes.  They go commando.

These filled three cookie tins, and took about two hours, including chilling time.

1 cup candied ginger (home made is best)

½ cup butter plus one teaspoon butter
Adapted from, Eileens-spicy-gingerbread men.
1/3 cup molasses
½ cup jaggery (raw Indian sugar), or brown sugar, if you must
1 egg
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger (or more if you use commercial candied ginger)
7 green cardamom pods, husks removed and ground to a powder

1 candy cane, bashed into bits with a mortar and pestle
½ cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon silver balls (optional)

Toss candied ginger into your blender and buzz till ground.  If some slightly larger bits remain, be happy.  Set aside.

Place  all but one teaspoon of butter into mixmaster, and whip till soft.  Add jaggery and whip till well combined, just a few minutes.  Put that last teaspoon of butter into a measuring cup and rub around to coat the cup.  Pour molasses into the cup, then slide that mix into the egg mixture.  Whip to combine.  Add egg and whip to combine that. 

My chilling area.
In a second bowl, combine dry ingredients, along with the ground candied ginger.  Turn off mixmaster, and add one third of the dry mix.  Turn on to 'slow' and mix in, then turn off and add next third.  Slowly mix in, then final third with a final mix. 

Chill dough about 30 minutes (I used the great outdoors for my chilling, and it got cold fast!)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide dough into two balls, keeping one chilled.  Roll out to about an eighth of an inch thick.  I like these men crackly and crisp, but you may prefer them more thick and robust.  Cut out shapes.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets, about an inch apart. 

Decorate as you see fit, with candy cane bits, chocolate chips or silver balls.  Don't ask me how or where. 

I did all my little guys in one batch and bigger guys in another batch, because the larger ones require longer baking times.  The little fellows baked in about seven minutes, the big galoots, about ten.  Watch carefully.

Remove from cookie sheets when mostly cool, then place on racks to cool completely.

Beautiful Granddaughter wanted to gussy them up with icing outfits, eyes and smiles, but I felt I’d been in the kitchen too long.  She’d been busy making snow globes with water, Easter egg dye, and glittery stuff.  I poured myself a glass of wine and closed the kitchen for the evening.  It’s not too late to make icing, I suppose.  We’ll see.

A plate of well behaved ginger bread men, fit for public consumption.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Jaggery Banana Crepes

This dessert looks and tastes inspired, but it can be whipped up in a hurry.  I prefer the flavour of jaggery, raw Indian sugar, but brown sugar will also do.  The ingredients are in most pantries, and like I said, it whips up so fast!

This recipe serves four, and takes about fifteen minutes in total to prepare.  It’s a good idea to whip the batter together before dinner, and then cook this dessert just as somebody else is starting the coffee.  By the time the coffee’s ready, dessert will be too.

1tablespoon melted butter
I whisked but then had to strain the lumps out, a hassle!
½ cup water
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salted butter
2 heaping tablespoons jaggery powder (or brown sugar)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 long bananas (8 inches or so)

1 tablespoon Nutella (optional)
4 scoops best quality vanilla bean ice cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (optional)
4 large spoonfuls of 1% cottage cheese

Before dinner, put the melted butter, water, milk and vanilla into a blender and buzz a moment to cool the butter.  Add the eggs and buzz again.  Add the flour and buzz quickly, till smooth.  Set aside.

Butter, cinnamon and jaggery melts and cooks fast!
After dinner, put a griddle onto medium high heat.  A few minutes later, put a saucepan onto medium high heat.  Add butter and jaggery or brown sugar to the saucepan, along with cinnamon.  After a few minutes, the butter and sugar will melt together and begin to bubble.  Check the heat of your griddle by tossing a drop of water onto it.  If it sizzles and evaporates, it’s ready. 

Coat bananas in the glaze and heat through.  No overcooking!
Have serving plates waiting on the counter.  Slice bananas into the sugary mixture, and gently stir to coat.  Pour a ladle’s worth of batter onto the griddle.  You can spread it around with the back of a wooden spoon, as you might do for a dosa, or you can tilt the griddle to spread the batter into a circle, about six inches across.  

As soon as it’s set (turns a flat colour with little shine), flip it with a large spatula, and do the other side.  Each crepe takes about a minute.  Place on plate, prettiest side down.
Start the next crepe, and continue.  Stir the bananas from time to time, so they get coated in deliciousness, but not too cooked.  Firm bananas are better than soggy overcooked bananas!

When crepes are all on plates, ladle most of the banana mixture in a line along the centre of each crepe.  Drizzle a bit of the Nutella over the bananas if you want to gild the lily.  Add a scoop of ice cream, or cottage cheese if you’re a Puritan. 
I took a smaller crepe and didn't line up the insides just right.  

Roll each crepe and set the folded pieces facing the plate.  Garnish with the left over banana and a few sprinkles of cinnamon sugar if you like.

Serve and enjoy.  I will confess to whipping up another batch of the banana for breakfast this morning, as I had left over crepe batter.  However, I behaved myself, and ate this with cottage cheese, sigh.  Even so, it tasted pretty decadent! 

Still a pretty good breakfast!